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Roundtable: Entertainment Beyond The Box

Roundtable: Entertainment Beyond The Box
Entertainment

Copa90, McCann NY, Alphachannel, The Other Guys, Wildbytes, Los York, Open Mind Strategy and Glassworks impart their expertise on the consumer culture driving new entertainment trends

Bogar Alonso
  • 21 february 2017

PSFK’s Roundtable series takes its inspiration from the traditional roundtable: bringing together industry insiders to share their insights on emerging and compelling trends in an idea-friendly manner. PSFK guides the discussion and our roundtable helps guide the future.

“How do we re-imagine the cinema, living room, music studio or production house for the next generation of omnipresent tech?” PSFK Founder and Editor-in-Chief Piers Fawkes asks in our latest report Entertainment Debrief: Media In The Age Of Omnipresent Tech.

Almost like the changing entertainment landscape that it encapsulates, the question seems approachable, streamlined, easily consumable even, but proves more complicated when one considers that cinemas, living rooms and production houses are relics of an immobile age. On-the-go people now demand mobile media and so tend to consume it within spaces that serve fluid purposes. For a good chunk of consumers a cinema is a living room is a music studio is a home.

What’s more, fans now want to play an integral part in their entertainment consumption, and so expect that it mold itself to their interests, behavior and situations and not the other way around.

How do we re-imagine entertainment so that it can not only live beyond the cinema, the living room, the music studio, the production house but also ‘the single screen,’ the standard streaming service, the unsynced media experience, the home theater? So that it can live beyond the square, sort to speak?

To answer some of these looming questions, we’ve turned to a handful of experts, who include:

James Kirkham | Head of Copa90 – the digital home for global football fans, made by global football fans, over 1.2M of which subscribe to their Copa90 YouTube channel.

Aaron Adler | Co-Founder and CMO of Alphachannel – is a network that allows brands and companies to connect with top creative studios (think: Wildbytes below) on a per-project basis.

Robin D. Hafitz | CEO and Founder of Open Mind Strategy – speaks to thousands of consumers on their brand and content preferences in order to help brands understand them on a deeper level.

Julio Obellerio | Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Wildbytes – an interactive experiential agency in the habit of creating that breaking brands and audiences out of their typical content-consuming habits.

Nicolás Cuneo | CEO and Co-Founder of The Other Guys – creators of interactive digital series that put audiences at the decision-making wheel.

Dexton Deboree | Co-Founder at Los York – an agency known for its culture-defining content creation for the world’s best brands.

Raphael Vangelis | Director at Glassworks – high-end content creators servicing the content industry under the domains of computer animation, digital effects, grading and compositing.

Sean Bryan | Co-Chief Creative Officer at McCann NY – the flagship agency of the McCann Worldgroup, the planet’s largest ad agency network, and one that requires zero introduction.

As brands and content creators converge their media onto integrated platforms that allow for access across multiple devices, what unlikely places and environments (think public parks) might we start to see their core content networks rear their heads? How might consumers respond to the proliferation of this content, whether in-flight, at hotels, in public places or beyond?

James Kirkham | Head of Copa90

“Content will become baked into the environment around us, driven both by consumer demand and opportunity that is spotted through the content providers. The death of television is a slight mistruth, instead referring to the decline in the collective viewing experience around a single screen in the corner of a living room. But moving image content (which is what television is), has instead just transferred everywhere else. The most recent realization of this was through on-demand culture and latterly with the dominance of mobile. But we should stop the obsession with small screens versus large, or an outdated philosophy of internet content being worse than traditional television. Our environments will begin to spring to life, with content driven more around moments and our need states. It is easy to imagine times of tedium and moments of monotony being fueled by content. Bus stops, shop queues, airport waits, all factors and facets of modern life might become prime content real estate. With faster city infrastructure, ‘Wi-Fi everywhere’ expectations and smarter devices will follow our demand to be entertained at all times.”

Dexton Deboree | Co-Founder at Los York

“It depends entirely on the content: if it’s shit people really want to see, and you’re giving it to them in ways that make their life easier, more enjoyable, filled with whatever emotions light them up or solving a problem for them (so they don’t have to crunch onto a mobile device or wait to see it properly on screen at home), then it’s a plus that they will thank you for.

But the moment you use a physical space as an opportunity to grab attention from anyone that doesn’t want it or need it, or sees a gained benefit, they will turn and run, harder and faster than before such an attempt was made as they will feel intruded upon and violated.”

Aaron Adler | Co-Founder and CMO of Alphachannel

“The most interesting example of a brand offering a single piece of content for consumption across vastly different platforms and formats is Amazon’s innovative Whispersync for Voice. With this service, Amazon has integrated its ecommerce platform, its Kindle reading product, and Audible’s Amazon library.

A user can purchase an e-book on the Amazon site, begin reading the words in text format on their Kindle or Kindle app, seamlessly switch to the audiobook version where the user left off, and go back to reading on Kindle. Over and over again. It ingeniously enables seamless switching between reading and listening to a single piece of content. Amazon tracks each user’s playback position, bookmarks, and notes between apps and across devices.

Whispersync for Voice is the most under-discussed example of true cross-platform content consumption. Amazon is effectively giving you a choice to use your eyes or your ears to enjoy a book, at your whim. It’s quite a feat, and yet it feels like a simple, seamless experience to each user. There’s no better example of a brand bowing to a user’s moment-to-moment preferences.”

Robin D. Hafitz | CEO and Founder of Open Mind Strategy

“Since consumers carry their core content networks with them at all times, those networks ‘rear their heads’ anywhere and everywhere. But as gathering spaces keep trying to monetize every inch, and to appear innovative, screens that aren’t in people’s hands are also popping up everywhere (think public parks). The clash of screens in places like elevators, taxis, subway platforms, hotel lobbies, etc., is almost always won by the screen in the hand, not the screen in the room. Consumers generally choose that which they can best control. “Public” screens are often just annoying because they are difficult to control – to turn off, down, or onto another channel—so expect more rejection from consumers of extraneous screens (as is being seen in NY taxi cabs).

For screens in public places to add value, not just noise, they need to be more than just another outlet for content that’s similar to what’s already available on people’s phones.

The only things that can compete with the convenience and control of mobile content are uniqueness and immersion. In-airport game screens that take advantage of the scale and physicality of their large size can captivate passersby for a half hour at a time. VR kiosks generate lines when offered. One key way that people feel immersed is if they’re involved in real-time events that connect groups of people. Interactive content that responded to the crowd in a public setting could be more than just another competing screen.”

Nicolás Cuneo | CEO and Co-Founder of The Other Guys

“To me, this strategy is not necessarily the way to go. It’s not about being in all places, but being in the correct place in the correct way. Consumers will simply tune out content when it’s being delivered in a way that they either don’t care about or that interferes with their lives.

We’ve already seen content being delivered publicly on public transit, elevators and other places not traditionally associated with entertainment. At that point, it is no longer entertainment for consumers; it’s simply an annoyance.”

Julio Obellerio | Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Wildbytes

“Context is king. Not only to advertising, but to entertainment and experience design as well. This is nothing new, but it is becoming critical from brands and content creators to respond to context with more clear focus. If we think about mid 20th century advertising billboards, we could already find two clearly different types of billboards: those that pretty much displayed the same content they would display on a magazine ad, and those that took the context into account and created context-aware billboards that immediately triggered an ‘aha’ moment in the passersby. They produced a personal reaction and therefore a memory was created, which is in the end what content creators and brands seek.

If we come back to 2017, context relevance clearly becomes the reason why augmented reality and mixed reality experiences are exploding so massively. It is because they are unavoidably tied to context and that makes them more relevant to the moment and the person that is experiencing them. For the launch of the fifth season of The Walking Dead, we created a cinematic augmented reality experience in which people in a public square in downtown Madrid, could see themselves surrounded by the characters of the show in which the apocalyptic universe of the series took over the public space around the fans. All in real time. Thousands of people packed the square and the reason was because they could be part of the TV show within their own context, their own environment. They were the protagonists and more importantly, content and context were one and the same.

This is not to say content is not king; it’s definitely part of the royalty. And black box movie theaters will keep being part of the entertainment realm for a while. But in the same way that social media has evolved from static posts to live broadcasts, content is evolving based on the context and environment and therefore the concept of ‘suspension of disbelief’ that has driven cinema and video game entertainment for decades will evolve. We will not need to sacrifice logic for the sake of enjoyment, as we will embrace fragmented entertainment as part of our reality. Entertainment consumers are more than ready for this shift.”

Sean Bryan | Co-Chief Creative Officer at McCann NY

“Brands are most powerful when they play a meaningful role in people’s lives, which often means going beyond screens. A great example is the Lockheed Martin Field Trip To Mars, the first-ever group VR experience we created where an ordinary school bus transformed to take riders on a tour of the Martian surface. Also, our Microsoft Art of Harmony art installation where we projected a powerful message of inclusivity onto a building in a park.

We’re always looking for ways to break out from conventional mediums. That’s where you surprise people with a brand’s message.”

Raphael Vangelis | Director at Glassworks

“The most likely but curious place content that we might see taking place is probably within smartglasses and on smartwatches. I see media being consumed more and more via smartphones.

Teenagers, for instance, watch TV shows and YouTube videos on their phones even if there as big television set in their living room. As a content creator, I myself design for a big computer screen experience and think about detail that 80 percent of viewers won’t even be able to appreciate as their screens are too small. It’s a trap I fall into all the time and also a classic case of not knowing your audience. With smartglasses and smartwatches screens might even become smaller the questions of screen size should become a more prominent question in content creation.

Film content might need to become adaptable in scale, technologically speaking, in the future.

In graphic design you have vector graphics which are lossless scalable. If we can find an adaptation for that in video it might become a game changer. With the fast advancement of computer-generated imagery, real-time rendered photo-realistic content is almost possible and might just be around the corner.”

Consumers are now forever on the hunt for rich, substantial media. But how can you ensure your rich, substantial media rises to the top of that vast sea of increasingly rich, substantial media? Are there particular methodologies, software, technologies companies must turn to when it comes to elevating their content? AI? Apps? Chat bots? Any content creators or brands doing exceptional things on this front in the entertainment space?

Robin D. Hafitz | CEO and Founder of Open Mind Strategy

Algorithms are getting better and better, but the best way to rise to the top is to make great stuff, and to do so consistently enough that your brand is known for making great stuff and therefore consumers are willing to at least try whatever new thing you make based on that track record.

In this crowded environment, the old trick of brand-building is a newly relevant methodology for elevating content. For example, FX scores high in many of our surveys on ‘I’d check out a show if all I knew about it was that it was made by this network.’ Their content is known to be good, provocative, dark, and innovative. And their brand-building has played well into an increasingly visual culture, telling the brand story less through words than by creating an immersive visual world that is provocative, dark, and innovative.”

Sean Bryan | Co-Chief Creative Officer at McCann NY

“At the most basic level, your message can only really break through the clutter, whatever media you’re using, when it delivers something people care about. That’s what we try to do for all of our clients: create a meaningful connection. Whether it’s high tech like the Lockheed Martin Field Trip to Mars that used cutting-edge technology to create a ‘1:1 relationship’ between Earth and Mars or taking an ordinary experience like shipping holiday gifts and turning it into a digital innovation, like the USPS Most Wonderful Ornament, a new technology that allows both the gift sender and receiver to share in the magical moment of cheer when the package is opened by the recipient.

The basic premise of what we do hasn’t changed—the ways in which we do it has and will continue to change—probably at an accelerating rate.

It’s important to always remember not to use technology for technology’s sake. The shiny new object isn’t the point. The point is connecting with people on some emotional level and tapping into something they care about.”

Aaron Adler | Co-Founder and CMO of Alphachannel

“How do content creators compete in this new landscape? The old Hollywood adage, ‘Nobody knows anything,’ fairly applies in 2017 to the raging video content battle between Amazon Studios and Netflix.

To determine which shows are profitable and get renewed, Amazon Studios and Netflix both use a sophisticated layer of user data, algorithms, and AI. But to determine which shows get green-lit in the first place, their rules of engagement are based on the same model Hollywood has always used: the Pareto Principle or 80/20 Rule. The top 20 percent of shows which find an audience will pay for the bottom 80 percent of shows which flop. In fact, at the scale of Amazon and Netflix, it may even be closer to 90/10.”

Nicolás Cuneo | CEO and Co-Founder of The Other Guys

“There is a need of quality and innovation more than ever. The world has changed, and with it, the way we consume content has changed. Brands that stand out in that vast sea of content are the ones that really invest in creating quality content and seek new ways of displaying their messages. Brands need to get creative when it comes to elevating content and think of a way to fit their message into the way that consumers live their life.

For example, at The Other Guys, we create interactive series with short episodes via a mobile app. These interactive series give the user an active role in the storyline and fit into the short attention span of the average consumer.

Using technology to engage your audience and fit into their agenda is something that can benefit brands and stand out from other forms of media.”

Raphael Vangelis | Director at Glassworks

“As an artist and content creator I have the strong belief that exceptional content rises to the top by itself. Now more than ever. Nowadays there is an incredible amount of bloggers, news sites and curators who are all connected and constantly scour the internet for the next best thing. If your content is good, distribution will find you. That being said there are certainly key influencers for each type of content and your target audience. Those are important to know and reach out to.

In my opinion the artificial inflation of interest in content via bots doesn’t net long-term results. It is easy to buy followers and engagements but the trained eye also spots those very easily. The big problem hereby is that you might hurt your brand and image more than you help it. I consider myself an educated content devourer. I personally immediately lose interest and develop an aversion when I spot that content has been artificially boosted, even if the content would have been of interest to me.

It seems to me that the consumer is being constantly underestimated and I firmly believe this is a very negative trend that is being ignored by many publishers as well as content creators.”

James Kirkham | Head of Copa90

“Quality content rises to the top. This universal rule means no amount of gimmick of tactical mechanic can supersede the need for quality. This is the game where ideas are everything, and class is permanent. Instead technology should be used as to augment a life, adding a seamless experience or simply ensuring things are more conveniently delivered.

At Copa90, we’ve been playing with messaging and bots since last summer; we were the only brand in the world to create a Facebook Messenger bot for the European Championships tournament. Our bot delivered animated goals direct to the palm of your hand, as well as team guides and live fan footage. It meant fans were given shots of content when they wanted it, creating catch-up mentality at any given minute, not waiting for repeats or more traditional sit-down consumption.

These fleeting phone moments are what some social platforms like Facebook are all about, and where technology helps bring content more quickly into the life of a consumer entirely on their terms.”

Julio Obellerio | Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Wildbytes

“Consumers seek to experience what they have not experienced before. It’s just human nature. And of course they want to share it online before anybody else. Whether it is physical, digital, or both. In that sense I believe the consumer rewards content creators in the same way they always have: content that surprises will rise through the press and word of mouth on social channels, whereas content that feels like repetition will just fall through the cracks.

But there is one key element that I believe brands and content creators are using to speed up this word-of-mouth process: the empowering sense of co-creation. When you, as a entertainment consumer feel that you can impact the outcome of what you are experiencing, it becomes personal. And when it becomes personal, you are engaged enough to share it in your personal space, that is, your social media outlets.

The good news is that we live in the era of experience gatherers. People don’t collect objects anymore, they collect experiences. So we, as content and experience creators, should take ‘advantage’ of it and connect with fans where it is relevant for them and give them the tools to affect the result so that it becomes personal.”

Dexton Deboree | Co-Founder of Los York

“Storytelling still comes down to that: telling the best stories, about the best subjects.

Even poorly made content that tells a gripping story rises to the top and always will. The best caveman auteurs didn’t always draw the best but their stories had an appealing arch and were told with a captivating voice and a passion and that will always rise above whatever technique a world of technicians might master.”

The rich entertainment and media landscape, however, amplifies our feeling of ‘content fatigue,’ especially for consumers who are already feeling inundated in too much information, media and content. How can one ensure that one’s brand delivers entertainment in a contextual, timely and relevant manner without irritating consumers in the process?

Julio Obellerio | Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Wildbytes

The current landscape of entertainment possibilities for consumers is definitely daunting…. in an exciting way. We are all developing better skills at selecting content faster and faster in order to find what’s interesting and relevant for us. In this selection process, what we as consumers kill first is brand unidirectional content. Which I believe is close to being dead. Brands and the pieces of entertainment they create, should revolve around the consumer. Direct brand messaging does not work anymore, just because we’re now getting used to being part of the conversation and we don’t want to go back. So instead of fighting to get the consumer’s attention to get them to listen to our brand, we should join them and create contexts for them to express themselves within the universe of our brand or content. People look for experiences that define them, and technology enables the creation of personalized content that enhances people’s behavior, bringing audience and brands together.

A good example of this excess of information and entertainment possibilities is Times Square.

The biggest content and advertising battleground you can find anywhere. A few years ago, we collaborated with space150 in the creation of the first interactive digital billboard in Times Square for the new Forever21 flagship. It was an augmented reality digital billboard in which giant models interacted with the crowds in real time. The premise was simple: to put the fans in the spotlight. The result was that it multiplied by more than 20x the average attention span compared with any other digital billboard in Times Square. The reason was quite straightforward: the rest of the digital billboards displayed unidirectional brand messaging or entertainment. This interactive billboard instead, brought the fans to the center of the conversation, and they responded.

I believe the strongest way to deliver entertainment in a contextual and relevant manner is personalization. In the digital world we have a huge amount of information to personalize content or at least whom do we deliver the content to. In the physical world there is more work to be done, but we are starting to see amazing possibilities based on computer vision (remember Minority Report?), which allow us to understand our consumers at a deeper level and deliver relevant experiences that include our consumers at the core of them.”

Nicolás Cuneo | CEO and Co-Founder of The Other Guys

“Entertainment providers need to innovate the way they deliver to consumers to avoid content fatigue. Providers need to put themselves in the shoes of the consumer and figure out when their content can be consumed in a positive way, because being everywhere does not guarantee your message will be understood. To me, ‘relevant’ means engaging people with content that they will perceive as good or adds value to them. For example, instead of advertising on YouTube with pre-roll videos that reach a huge audience, LEGO is creating relevant, value-added content for their users. Brands need to see advertising as a win-win relationship. If they don’t, users will skip, avoid or not even notice content.”

Robin D. Hafitz | CEO and Founder of Open Mind Strategy

“Consumers want to be in control, but they also want to be taken for a ride. Brands need to strike the balance between these desires. And, importantly, they need to recognize that consumers move around on the spectrum between wanting absolute control and complete immersion throughout the day. “Dayparting” is important to relevance and timeliness. A brand needs not only to know their audience and their general preferences, but also the rhythms of their days. Consumers in general want different content, and demand more control and routine, during mornings in motion than evenings at leisure, but rhythms are different for a middle-aged news junkie than for a celebrity-obsessed fourteen-year-old. Sometimes scannable headlines are more compelling than a rich video experience. Smart brands give consumers the level of detail and immersion that they want, when they want it. Attention not just to access and quality of content, but to ‘dayparting’ can help brands come across as more contextual, timely, and relevant, rather than irritating and irrelevant.

James Kirkham | Head of Copa90

“You overcome fatigue by delivering quality content, predicated on appropriateness of its delivery moment. So, micro-shots of killer content at your beck and call are the antithesis of ‘always-on’ abuse. This happened as brands took advantage of technology to spout non-stop and saturate our streams. Not so much interrupting, more entirely smothering. There lies the answer where marketers need to consider both crafting with excellence and positioning it correctly, too.”

Sean Bryan | Co-Chief Creative Officer at McCann NY

“The only way to cut through the content clutter is by delivering something that’s authentic and relevant. Not being irritating or disruptive to consumers has always been the watch-out for our industry—whether it’s a TV commercial or something more digitally innovative. You can always take the most mundane of mediums and make them fresh with the right creative idea. A great example is our sister agency The Martin Agency’s Unskippable campaign for Geico, which took one of the most unpopular formats—the pre-roll—and captured consumers’ attention in a fresh and humorous way.

You’ll never really irritate people if you’re talking about something they care about.”

Aaron Adler | Co-Founder and CMO of Alphachannel

“In a digital ecosystem of limitless choice, superior platforms are managing content fatigue via algorithms and meticulous analysis of user data. Spotify is a shining example.

Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist is different for every single user, based on a dynamic algorithm which combines your personal listening history with that of other listeners with similar tastes. Discover Weekly has been an enormous win for the platform. People rave about it online, and I can personally attest to its accuracy. I’ve found several songs on my own Discover Weekly playlist that I’ve added to other playlists I have on heavy rotation.

Discover Weekly is evidence that Spotify’s investment in a data-driven approach to music selection not only eliminates content fatigue. It keeps Spotify subscribers listening for longer durations and more often. This translates into a stickier product, increased user loyalty, and new user growth.”

Raphael Vangelis | Director at Glassworks

“This really comes down to knowing your product and knowing your audience. I personally trust in one thing: constantly reinventing myself and my content. This means in terms of idea as well as technique. It seems to me that consumers get more intelligent and there attention spans get shorter at the same time. Creators simply have to not be lazy and keep up. Surprising myself and the viewer in the process works for me. Doing work based on a formula and repeat that formula just got old.

I don’t think the modern consumer feels like there is too much content out there. In my circle of friends there is anything people constantly complaining about not having a good TV show to watch anymore even though there are thousands out there. They just don’t watch the same thing over and over again. This translates to movies and commercials as well, I believe.

Content creators just got to be more creative in ideation. I don’t think there are any external factors to blame if content is not capturing its audience.”

Dexton Deboree | Co-Founder of Los York

“Speak from the heart and when it’s truly the right time for you to speak. Less is more, now more than ever. Consumers want to hear compelling stories and they listen to people, brands and storytellers they care about. Know your brand, truly know what you stand for, what you mean to others and speak when you truly have something to say. Authenticity of voice and genuineness of story will always find an audience. The moment you look from without to outsmart the market you’ve already lost. Look from within and speak your truth—and those meant to hear it will live their life by it.”

PSFK’s Entertainment Debrief examines the vast ecosystem of omnipresent media, where content can be found anywhere in any form. Download the full report here, request a presentation at your office and join the conversation on Twitter with #entertainmentdebrief. For full access to all of PSFK’s reports, debriefs, articles and archives, become a PSFK Member today.

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